Ahead of an EU summit next week, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has tabled proposals to deepen the Economic and Monetary Union, fleshing out plans for a two-tier Europe with the eurozone at its core.
The Van Rompuy paper,“Towards a genuine Economic and Monetary Union”, will certainly provoke an animated debate at the 13-14 December summit, which is expected to adopt a "specific and time-bound roadmap" for deepening the EMU.
The 15-page document is signed by Van Rompuy “in close collaboration” with Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi – the so-called “EU quadriga”.
It calls for “arrangements of a contractual nature” between countries using the euro and EU institutions to carry out structural reforms, a capacity to “take rapid executive decisions” for the single currency and a “unified” external representation of the new Union, under a specific parliamentary supervision.
The document marks an acceleration towards a two-tier Europe, with the eurozone countries at its core.
Several EU countries, especially those outside the single currency, have warned against a division between the "ins" and "outs", with second-class members alienated from decision-making.
A specific budget for the euro zone
The Van Rompuy paper provides for many of the attributes that the European Union already has, taking further the idea of a specific “fiscal capacity” for the EMU – a euphemism for a eurozone budget.
For many non-members, this could prove a step too far.
Enik? Gy?ri, Hungary's state secretary for European Affairs, told EURACTIV Germany in a recent interview that a specific eurozone budget would result in treating countries differently and ultimately destroy the EU.
French President François Hollande has sought to reassure those countries, saying after a summit in October that the eurozone budget will only come "in addition" to the EU budget and not "in substitution" of it.
The French President downplayed the move towards a two-speed union, saying "everyone now accepts the idea of ??multiple speeds".
"There are even some moving in reverse gear," Hollande added wittingly, without naming Britain.
But he also warned outsiders that "no country can prevent the euro area from moving forward".
Structural reforms: Taxation and employment
The Van Rompuy paper doesn't stop there. It also recommends that countries enter into “arrangements of a contractual nature” with EU institutions "on the reforms they commit to undertake and their implementation."
"On a case-by-case basis", these could be supported by the new financial capacity in order to support reforms, "in particular in the field of taxation and employment," the paper says.
These reforms would be mandatory for eurozone members and voluntary for countries outside the group.
At a later stage, the new financial facility would be used to "facilitate adjustment to economic shocks” in some specific countries, through "an insurance system set up at the central level."
The financial resources for the new “fiscal capacity” are expected to be taken from national contributions, autonomous resources such as a VAT or financial transactions tax, or a combination of both. The establishment of a treasury function for the new budget is also foreseen.
“Reinforcing the capacity of the European level to take executive economic policy decisions for the EMU is essential,” says the paper, without providing more detail of the shape of the future decision-making leadership.
The document also has a chapter on “democratic legitimacy and accountability”, which basically says that neither national parliaments, nor the European Parliament can play this role fully.
The paper stops short of calling for a separate parliament for the eurozone, but says: “the creation of a new fiscal capacity for the EMU should also lead to adequate arrangements ensuring its full democratic legitimacy and accountability. The details of such arrangements would largely depend on its specific features, including its funding sources, its decision-making processes and the scope of its activities”.